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Think about it

John Allen Paulos

11 March 1993
Irrationality: The Enemy Within 
by Stuart Sutherland.
Constable, 357 pp., £14.95, November 1992, 0 09 471220 4
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... real-world instances whose central thesis is that most of us make critical mistakes in reasoning. Stuart Sutherland teaches psychology at the University of Sussex, but his early career as a journalist may have sensitised him to human irrationality. Thus he begins his tour of the psychological literature on irrationality with a discussion of the so-called ...

Learning to peck

Stuart Sutherland

4 November 1993
The Making of Memory: From Molecules to Mind 
by Steven Rose.
Bantam, 355 pp., £6.99, October 1993, 0 553 40748 1
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... Astronomers have penetrated billions of light-years into space, explained the changing states of stars from their birth to their death, postulated the existence of black holes in which matter disappears, and rightly or wrongly, pinpointed the origins of the universe to a moment in time. The work of neuroscientists demands the same kind of ingenious speculation and theorising and rests on the invention of just as many subtle techniques ...

Keeping the synapses busy

Stuart Sutherland

7 July 1994
Listening to Prozac 
by Peter Kramer.
Fourth Estate, 409 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 1 85702 233 5
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... Of all professionals perhaps doctors are the most gullible; and psychiatrists are perhaps the most gullible of all doctors. Over the last hundred years they have treated mental illness with cold douches, removal of the ovaries or thyroid, castration, hysterectomy, cooling almost to the point of death (and at least once beyond it), extracting the teeth and tonsils, enucleating the cervix, drilling holes in the skull, inducing coma through insulin, using metrazol to cause convulsions and slashing through a large chunk of the frontal lobe ...

Stainless Splendour

Stefan Collini: How innocent was Stephen Spender?

22 July 2004
Stephen Spender: The Authorised Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Viking, 627 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 670 88303 4
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... Spender’s son Matthew was ten years old, he caught his hand in a car door. ‘The event,’ John Sutherland writes, ‘recalled other tragedies in the boy’s little life; the running over, for example, of his dog Bobby – a "rather lugubrious looking spaniel” and a present from his godmother, Edith Sitwell. Six-year-old Matthew had been disappointed by ...
7 November 1985
Galapagos 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 269 pp., £9.50, October 1985, 0 224 02847 2
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A Family Madness 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 315 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 340 38449 2
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A Storm from Paradise 
by Stuart Hood.
Carcanet, 188 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 85635 582 8
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Samarkand 
by John Murray.
Aidan Ellis, 255 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 85628 151 4
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The Sicilian 
by Mario Puzo.
Bantam, 410 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 593 01001 9
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Putting the boot in 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 192 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 224 02332 2
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... a genuine claim on the reader. Carcanet publish A Storm from Paradise, together with a reissue of Stuart Hood’s Carlino.* Carlino is straight autobiography, recording the author’s experiences with the Italian Resistance during the war. A Storm from Paradise has equally strong but less direct roots in Hood’s past. The novel imaginatively reconstructs a ...

Black Electricities

John Sutherland

30 October 1997
The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Vol. XXV: January-December 1850 
edited by Clyde de L. Ryals and K.J. Fielding.
Duke, 364 pp., £52, September 1997, 0 8223 1986 1
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Reminiscences 
by Thomas Carlyle, edited by K.J. Fielding and Ian Campbell.
Oxford, 481 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 0 19 281748 5
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... or ‘Christian Sentimentalists’, as Carlyle called them. Not the least offended was John Stuart Mill – an uneasy friend. Mill wrote a letter of refutation in the next issue of Fraser’s, pointing out, with a better grasp of colonial history and a more humane analysis than McQuirk’s, that for nearly two centuries had Negroes, many thousands ...

Short is sharp

John Sutherland

3 February 1983
Firebird 2 
edited by T.J. Binding.
Penguin, 284 pp., £2.95, January 1983, 0 14 006337 4
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Bech is Back 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 195 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 0 233 97512 8
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The Pangs of Love 
by Jane Gardam.
Hamish Hamilton, 156 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 241 10942 6
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The Man Who Sold Prayers 
by Margaret Creal.
Dent, 198 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 9780460045926
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Happy as a Dead Cat 
by Jill Miller.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, January 1983, 9780704338982
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... floor is gratefully scooped up. Other heavyweights in the collection are Fay Weldon and Francis Stuart. Weldon’s piece is an ironic unhappily-ever-after study of contemporary marriage, given in her familiar a-man-was-born-he-lived-and-he-died manner. Stuart’s ‘The Water Garden’ is a condensed novel, taking an ...
20 November 1986
News from Nowhere 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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O-Zone 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... and its intelligentsia 1968-86 and not allude to, among others, E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Perry Anderson, Robin Blackburn, R.D. Laing, and the personnel of the New Statesman, would be to create another kind of absent centre. Caute solves this problem by resort to the teasing deceits of the Disraelian political romance. That is, he ...

I was Mary Queen of Scots

Colm Tóibín: Biographical empathy

21 October 2004
My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots 
by John Guy.
Harper Perennial, 574 pp., £8.99, August 2004, 1 84115 753 8
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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens 
by Jane Dunn.
Harper Perennial, 592 pp., £8.99, March 2004, 9780006531920
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... Nancy Mitford, however, I was too sad and too regal to masturbate. Since her death in 1587, Mary Stuart has caused strange stirrings and vehement imaginings in those who have applied themselves to her case. In Schiller’s play, her jailer Paulet worries about an escape: I curse the task that is entrusted me, To keep this scheming vixen in my care. I wake ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland

17 July 1980
Duffy 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... ten or so named lovers. Ted’s wife is Evelyn, a social worker. Kate used to be married to Stuart, who now lives, amiably separated, in a basement, painting mould and rust in advanced artistic styles. Nothing much happens in the novel. A number of lives of modish desperation are illuminated; the world is getting harder and drabber, the London graffiti ...
24 September 1992
Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... English at Leicester, where Bradbury got his first degree) must suspect that the novel’s hero, Stuart Treece, is a portrait from life. Nor could one believe that the portrait (although it is not at all malicious) furnished its original with many laughs. In_Doctor Criminale, the issue is more pointed. The narrative contains a series of prominent and very ...
24 May 1990
The British Isles: A History of Four Nations 
by Hugh Kearney.
Cambridge, 236 pp., £17.50, March 1989, 0 521 33420 9
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Cromartie: Highland Life 1650-1914 
by Eric Richards and Monica Clough.
518 pp., £29.50, August 1989, 0 08 037732 7
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Jacobitism and the English People, 1688-1788 
by Paul Kléber Monod.
Cambridge, 408 pp., £30, November 1989, 0 521 33534 5
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... hands of the estate. Except for the period between 1861 and 1888 when it was merged in the vast Sutherland empire, it never had the funds to embark on any major change. The reason lay in the economic effects of family structure. Though the Cromartie family did not have to carry the burden of large families to be set up in the world, they had just as ...

Unsaying

Philip Davis: Thomas Arnold’s Apostasies

15 April 2004
A Victorian Wanderer: The Life of Thomas Arnold the Younger 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Oxford, 274 pp., £25, July 2003, 0 19 925741 8
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... thought was a disturbing rather than a contemplative experience. As he put it in a review of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty in 1859, when we are unsure of the truth of received ideas, what follows is not ‘constant meditation upon them’, as if we could dwell and rest in them, but, more critically, a ‘constant discussion of their grounds’. Those ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams

1 July 2015
Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... a lie depend on what we are being asked and what the consequences of telling the truth may be. As Stuart Hampshire intimated in the LRB more than thirty years ago, the question for Williams was how far he was willing to go with the particular; willing, that is, to accept that to live in a fully human way is to accept the contingency of our convictions and ...

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